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Okanagan

From Academic Kids

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Okanagan.jpg
View of the Okanagan valley from the hills above Kelowna
The regional districts that comprise the Okanagan are shown in red.
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The regional districts that comprise the Okanagan are shown in red.

The Okanagan is a region located in the Canadian province of British Columbia. As of the year 2001, the region's population is approximately 297,601. The primary city is Kelowna. The name derives from an Okanagan First Nations word S-Ookanhkchinx meaning "Transport toward the head or top end". The region is known for outdoor activities such as skiing and hiking as well as for the wine industry.

The name Okanogan also refers to the region that encompasses part of northern Washington State.

Contents

History

The Okanagan Valley was home to First Nations people for thousands of years before others arrived. The Okanagan Nation, an Interior Salish people who lived in the valley from the head of Okanagan Lake downstream to near the river's confluence with the Columbia River in present-day Washington State, as well as in the neighbouring Similkameen Valley, numbered in the thousands (no precise figure is known) at the time of contact with European settlers. They were hunter-gatherers, living off wild game and berries and roots for the most part but travelling north or south to fish salmon runs or to trade with other nations.

In 1811 came the first non-natives to the Okanagan Valley, a fur trading expedition voyaging north out of Fort Okanogan, a Pacific Fur Company outpost at the confluence of the Okanagan and Columbia rivers. Within fifteen years, fur traders established a route through the valley for passing goods between the Thompson region and the Columbia River for transport to the Pacific. The trade route lasted until 1846, when the Oregon Treaty laid down the border between British North America and the United States west of the Rocky Mountains on the 49th parallel. The new border cut across the valley. To avoid paying tariffs, British traders forged a route that bypassed Fort Okanogan, following the Thompson and Fraser rivers to Fort Langley instead. The Okanagan Valley did not see many more outsiders for a decade afterward.

In 1859, the first European settlers arrived when Father Charles Pandosy led the making of an Oblate mission where Kelowna is now. In the decades that followed, hundreds of ranchers came from all directions to settle on Okanagan Lake. The Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858 drove more settlement as some prospectors from the United States took the old Okanagan trade route on their way to the Fraser Canyon. A few staked claims around the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys and found gold and copper in places. A mining industry began in the southern Okanagan region, and more farmers, as well as a small service industry, came to meet the needs of the miners.

Fruit production is a hallmark of the Okanagan Valley today, but the industry began with difficulty. Commercial orcharding of apples was first tried there in 1892, but a series of setbacks prevented the major success of commercial fruit crops until the 1920s. But until the 1930s, the demand for shipping fruit and other goods did drive a need for the sternwheeler steamboats that serviced Okanagan Lake: the S.S. Aberdeen from 1886 and then the S.S. Sicamous and S.S. Naramata from 1914. The Sicamous and Naramata survive as a tourist attraction in Penticton.

While the last half-century has grown several resource-based enterprises in the region, for instance forestry in Princeton, the fastest-growing industries in the Okanagan today are tourism and retirement accommodation. Advantaged by its sunny climate, lakes, and winery attractions, the valley has become a hot destination for vacationers and retirees.

Geography

According to StatsCan, the region has a total area of 20,829 km² (8,042 mi²) which is roughly 2/3rds the size of Belgium.

Geographic Features

Major Highways

Adjacent Regions

(also shares northern border with Washington State, USA)

Communities

Demographics

The population of the region was 297,601 as of the 2001 Census. There were 154,010 Females (51%) and 143,590 Males (49%). The population is relatively older with a median age of 42.5, compared with the provincial average of 39.

References


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